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How Long Should My Online Research Community Last?

Calendar - Dub, online qual and insight communitiesShort-term (or pop-up) online research communities are where recruited participants are invited to take part in private online discussions, surveys and creative activities each day of the community. They last for anything from 2-3 days up to a couple of weeks or even months. But a key question I’m always asked is ‘How long should my research community last?’.

You need to get this right, not least because the cost of managing an unplanned extension can be great. Last minute changes to the research timeline can leave your research team burning the candle at both ends when conducting analysis, preparing their final report and finalising the client presentation. Here’s some advice on how to avoid this and decide on the length of your research community.

By asking yourself these questions before you go live, you won’t go far wrong:

  1. What is the estimated time commitment (each day) you expect from participants,
  2. How many activities are participants expected to complete to complete each day.
  3. What type of activities are participants invited to complete in the research community. For example is there a shopping assignment that might need more time and effort to complete?
  4. Are participants required to create and upload video?
  5. Have participants (and you) allocated enough time to address follow-up questions?
  6. Thinking about the above questions during the research design stage can help determine the duration of your short-term community. Providing an extra day in the data collection phase to allow participants to complete an assignment such as a shopping trip decreases the likelihood for incompletes and you capture more experiences.

The asynchronous nature of an online research community can mean that participants respond after you hit the pillow for the night and you aren’t given the chance for follow ups if needed. Building in a catch-up day for both you and the participants at the end of the study from the beginning can help keep the project on track and the opportunity to capture insights that may have been missed.

Finally, provide participants time to acclimatise themselves with the community software before the research begins - we call it onboarding. At Further you can onboard your participants up to 48 hours before the community goes live. To find out more about our onboarding process read ‘Onboarding for better online research’.

Be prepared in advance, instead of burning the candle on both ends.

For more help with your research communities download our helpful Research Community Engagement Guide

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